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Is Creatine Bad for Your Kidneys?

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Are you considering taking creatine to boost your athletic performance and build muscle, but worried it might damage your kidneys? You’re not alone.

Many people have concerns about the safety of this popular supplement, especially when it comes to kidney health.

The good news is, the vast majority of scientific evidence shows that creatine is safe for most people when taken at the recommended doses.

Numerous studies have found no adverse effects of creatine on kidney function in healthy individuals. Even long-term creatine supplementation of up to 5 years does not appear to harm the kidneys.

So why the concern about kidneys? When you take creatine, your body converts it to creatinine, a waste product that is filtered out by the kidneys.

Supplemental creatine can raise blood creatinine levels above normal ranges. Elevated creatinine is sometimes a sign of kidney problems.

However, the creatinine increase from taking creatine does not indicate kidney damage. It’s simply a reflection of the increased creatine in your system. Proper kidney function tests show that creatine does not negatively impact the kidneys.

Is Creatine Bad for Your Kidneys. Children play American football

Creatine for Teens and Kids is safe?

Creatine appears to be safe for children and adolescents when taken in appropriate doses.

In studies, doses of 0.1-0.4 grams per kg of body weight daily for up to 6 months were well tolerated in infants and children. Doses of 2-5 grams per day for 2-6 months have been safely used in children ages 5-18. (1)

However, there is limited research on the long-term effects of creatine in youth. Teens and kids should only take creatine under medical supervision.

More studies are needed before widely recommending creatine for this age group.

Who Should Avoid Creatine?

While creatine is safe for most people, there are some exceptions. You should talk to your doctor before taking creatine if you:

  • Have a history of kidney disease or kidney problems
  • Have diabetes
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are taking any medications that affect kidney function
  • Have bipolar disorder (creatine may worsen mania)
  • Have Parkinson’s disease (caffeine and creatine may worsen symptoms)

If you have healthy kidneys, occasional high protein intake is unlikely to cause harm. But if your kidney function is already impaired, a high-protein diet may accelerate damage.

Those with kidney disease should avoid creatine and consult their doctor about safe protein intake.

Other Creatine Side Effects

In addition to the kidneys, you may wonder if creatine is bad for other aspects of your health. The most common side effects reported from creatine are:

  • Weight gain: Creatine causes your muscles to hold more water, which can lead to a quick increase on the scale of 2-6 pounds. This is water weight, not fat gain.
  • Digestive issues: High doses may cause diarrhea, nausea, and other GI problems. Stick to the recommended doses to avoid stomach trouble.
  • Muscle cramps: There’s no strong evidence that creatine causes cramping. In fact, it may reduce cramps by better hydrating your muscles.
  • Acne: Anecdotally, some people report breakouts when taking creatine. But studies have not proven a link.

Overall, creatine’s side effects are minimal for healthy people using normal doses. It’s one of the most well-studied and safest supplements available.

The Bottom Line

Based on the current research, creatine does not pose a risk to kidney health for most people.

As registered dietitian Stefany Veldhuizen states, “2-3 grams of creatine a day in the form of creatine monohydrate is generally recognized as safe.”

Of course, you should always consult your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or concerns. But for the vast majority of healthy people, creatine is a safe and effective way to support your fitness goals.

As leading researcher Dr. Bruno Gualano puts it, “Creatine supplements are safe and do not cause renal disease.

Reports of kidney damage associated with its use are scanty.” Perhaps it’s time to put the decades-old myth of creatine damaging the kidneys to rest once and for all.

The science is clear – when used properly, creatine does not hurt your kidneys.